Miami Marlins GM Kim Ng: Historic hire gives 'glimmer of hope' to many

Kim Ng mentioned all the people who texted or emailed her -- over 1,000 congratulatory messages -- since the Miami Marlins announced she had been hired as the team's general manager on Friday.

The list included fellow executives, former players, managers, scouts, writers. She has been working in baseball since 1991, when former White Sox executive Dan Evans hired her as an intern out of the University of Chicago, where she had played softball and majored in public policy, and many in the game have crossed paths with her at some point.

It's those not in the game, however, who might be most inspired by Ng's hiring, all the girls and young women who love baseball and now see, for the first time, a woman running the baseball operations side of a major league organization. She is believed to be the first female general manager in any of the four major North American men's sports leagues.

Ng did not downplay her trailblazer status during her official introduction as Marlins GM on Monday at Marlins Park.

"The last 72 hours have been extraordinary for me," she said. "I can't tell you how much it meant to me to see the outpouring of just pure joy for a lot of people. As the day unfolded, I was able to zoom out a little bit and realize just what was going on and how much impact this was having over social media. ... It made me realize that it really was a glimmer of hope and inspiration for so many, that if you work hard and you persevere and you're driven and you just keep going that eventually your dream will come true. I got calls and text messages from guys that I've known over the years who were just so excited to tell their daughters and wives."

Ng has paid her dues to get to this position, working her way up to assistant director of baseball operations for the White Sox and then, at 29, becoming the youngest assistant GM in the game when the Yankees hired her. She later served in the same position with the Dodgers and since 2011 has been a senior vice president of baseball operations for MLB, where she directed international operations.

Along the way, she interviewed for general manager's openings more than a half-dozen times, including with the Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, Giants, Mariners and Padres.

Ng had another barrier to finally getting hired as a general manager -- she turns 52 on Tuesday, in an era when teams are hiring younger and younger general managers. James Click was 42 when the Astros hired him in February to replace fired Jeff Luhnow. Chaim Bloom was 36 when the Red Sox hired him for the 2020 season. Mike Elias was also 36 when the Orioles hired him in 2019. Brewers GM David Stearns is 35 -- and has been the team's GM since 2016.

After all those interviews, Ng may have figured she would never get this opportunity in the male-dominated baseball culture.

"In terms of resistance and pushback, I think I've been able to win people over fairly quickly. Obviously, over the last 10 years in terms of interviewing for the general manager's jobs, it hasn't come to fruition until now. ... It's a tribute to the idea that you just have to keep plowing through. That's what this is. It's like what you tell the players. You can go mope and sulk for a few days, but that's it. Then you have to come back. That's what I've been able to do and, yes, I've been defeated and deflated numerous times, but you always keep hoping."

Ng mentioned her two heroes growing up: Billie Jean King, for her fight for women's equality, and Martina Navratilova, for changing the perception of what a female athlete has to look like. So of all her congratulatory messages, the one from King stood as out, as did one from Michelle Obama. She also singled out a tweet from Josh Rawitch, whom she worked with while both were with the Dodgers.

"His was meaningful because it just showed me how much people have been hoping for this moment for me and for the sport for such a long time," she said.

Ng completes a diverse front office for the Marlins. Derek Jeter -- who knows Ng well from his playing days -- became the first Black CEO when he and Bruce Sherman purchased the team in 2017. Caroline O'Connor, the team's COO, is one of the highest-ranking woman executives in professional sports. Ng pointed out the women in the organization who work in the team's analytics, scouting and medical departments.

But it's Ng's name now in the spotlight, the one to make the trades and transactions needed to turn the Marlins into consistent winners. They made the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2003, but have never made back-to-back postseason appearances.

"It changes the conversation and the idea that people have about what a GM looks like. The importance really just can't be overstated," said Rachel Balkovec, a hitting coach in the Yankees' minor league system.

"The idea that it has affected this many people is just extraordinary," Ng said. "I thought it would be a big deal, but this is beyond my expectations. I think that really is just a testament to where we are. People are looking for hope, and people are looking for inspiration, and I'm happy that this is a part of it."